• Brian Lewis
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


At the outset, committee members whimsically took to calling homosexuals and prostitutes ‘Huntleys’ and ‘Palmers’, after the brand of biscuits. This practice, apparently to save the blushes of the female stenographers, was relatively shortlived; the graphic nature of the witness statements would have made it redundant. But in the early months the committee had to decide whether it wanted to interview any of these Huntleys, in full committee or smaller gatherings, and—if so—what type of Huntley.1 The correspondence between Wolfenden and the secretary, Conwy Roberts, indicates a willingness to entertain the idea but no great enthusiasm. A number of Huntleys wrote offering their services; correspondence and informal meetings took place.2 Some could be easily dismissed—there was no evidence that one R. Devereux Shirley, for example, was qualified to ‘represent the beliefs and needs of the big majority of the 500,000 homosexuals in Great Britain’3—while others were more promising. Roberts thought that ‘an invert in a responsible University post’ who came to see him was just the ‘very decent sort of chap’ who would be suitable: unlike many with his ‘particular disability’ he had no axe to grind and was ‘the personification, in fact, of the D. P. P.’s “genuine” homosexual!’4 Nevertheless, when it came time to organize some full interviews with homosexuals in the summer of 1955, Wolfenden’s priorities lay with the other scheduled witnesses; the homosexuals could be offered whatever time might be left over. Roberts even suggested that, ‘If the idea is merely to let the Committee see what a few Huntleys look and behave like, then the proceedings could be informally conducted over a cup of tea.’ Wolfenden demurred at this: since two of the men were rather distinguished blokes, if the committee were going to put itself to the trouble of seeing them at all, it ought to be reasonably thorough about it.5


Homosexual Activity Male Homosexuality Agent Provocateur Homosexual Friend Homosexual Experience 
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  1. 12.
    Houlbrook, Queer London, pp. 242–8, 254; Houlbrook and Waters, ‘The Heart in Exile’, 145–55. For the queer scene, see: Houlbrook, Queer London, chap. 3; Alkarim Jivani, It’s Not Unusual: A History of Lesbian and Gay Britain in the Twentieth Century (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), pp. 128–33; Daniel Farson, Soho in the Fifties (London: Michael Joseph, 1987), pp. 71–81; Garland, Heart in Exile, pp. 56–70.Google Scholar
  2. 19.
    Gordon Westwood [Michael Schofield], A Minority: A Report on the Life of the Male Homosexual in Great Britain (London: Longmans, 1960), p. 131, to some extent corroborated such a suggestion. In his sample of 127 homosexual men, only 32 per cent regularly had anal sex—though many others had tried it and found it unpleasant or unsatisfactory.Google Scholar
  3. 26.
    Wildeblood was repeating a common error here. The Code Napoleon of 1804 referred only to civil law whereas sexual offences came under criminal law. It was the French Revolutionaries in the Penal Code of 1791 who abrogated the anti-sodomy laws, and this was perpetuated in Napoleon’s Penal Code of 1810. See Michael David Sibalis, ‘The Regulation of Male Homosexuality in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, 1789–1815’, in Jeffrey Merrick and Bryant T. Ragan, Jr (eds), Homosexuality in Modern France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 80–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 41.
    A reference to E. M. Forster, who began a long-term relationship with Hammersmith policeman Bob Buckingham in 1930. See Wendy Moffat, A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), chap. 10 and passim.Google Scholar
  5. 48.
    Roberta (born Robert) Cowell (1918–2011), a racing driver and wartime RAF pilot who had been married with children and who did not identify as homosexual, was among the first British male-to-female transsexuals to undergo—in the late 1940s and early 1950s—sex reassignment surgery. Her story came out in 1954, first in a serialization in the Picture Post (13 Mar.–24 Apr. 1954), then in Roberta Cowell’s Story by Herself: Her Autobiography (New York: British Book Centre, 1954). See also her obituary in the Independent, 27 Oct. 2013; Joanne Meyerowitz, How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 83–4; Alison Oram, ‘Cross-Dressing and Transgender’, in Cocks and Houlbrook (eds), Modern History of Sexuality, pp. 276–80; Pagan Kennedy, The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution (New York: Bloomsbury, 2007).Google Scholar

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© Brian Lewis 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Lewis
    • 1
  1. 1.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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